Iraqi Lawmaker Says Speaker Offers to Resign

The Iraqi parliament's Sunni speaker has said he will resign under certain conditions, a lawmaker said Tuesday, which could resolve a political impasse that has stalled the decision on whether to allow non-U.S. troops to stay beyond December.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani told some lawmakers before parliament was to convene Tuesday that in return for his resignation he wants to be named head of a human-rights association, Shiite lawmaker Ridha Jwad Taqi told The Associated Press. The speaker also wants a guarantee that his post is filled by someone other than a member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, Taqi said.

The post is usually held by a Sunni and there are a number of Sunni parties in parliament

Kurdish and Shiite lawmakers have given al-Mashhadani until Tuesday to either resign or be voted out of office.

His resignation or dismissal could open the way for ratification of the troops resolution, possibly on the same day or Wednesday. If the resolution is not passed before a U.N. mandate expires on Dec. 31, those troops will have no legal authority to remain in Iraq.

The fate of the resolution came into question during a vote last week when a debate over foreign forces degenerated into a shouting match between legislators over the arrest of an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush. Al-Mashhadani angered lawmakers from all parties by using abusive language and insulting a number of lawmakers.

During a session Monday to vote on the resolution, al-Mashhadani attempted to force the body to withdraw its opposition to him by threatening to put it into recess until Jan. 7 — a week after the U.N. mandate expires. That followed a heated closed-door session that was marked by insults and shouting.

Al-Mashhadani backed down after opposition lawmakers gathered enough signatures to force a vote against him and issued an ultimatum that he resign.

Britain has already said it plans to withdraw its 4,000 troops from southern Iraq by the end of May. Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania also have far smaller contingents.

Under a separate agreement reached last month, U.S. troops can remain in Iraq until the end of 2011.

Parliament was expected to meet in a closed-door session Tuesday to decide al-Mashhadani's fate. Normally, parliament would go into recess this week until January for a number of Islamic and Christian holidays.

Kurdish and Shiite groups seeking al-Mashhadani ouster have gathered signatures from 150 of the parliament's 275 deputies, far more than the 139 votes required to dismiss him.

If he is ousted, he will be replaced by one of his two deputies, and parliament can then approve the resolution. The main Sunni party will then choose a replacement.

Al-Mashhadani has long been at the center of arguments in the legislature because of his erratic behavior and abusive language.

Two years ago, the Shiite bloc ousted al-Mashhadani after a series of outbursts, but his fellow Sunnis forced them to reinstate him.

Al-Mashhadani clashed with Kurdish legislators earlier this year in a dispute over whether the oil-rich city of Kirkuk should be incorporated into the semiautonomous Kurdish territory. Kurds wanted the city included, but al-Mashhadani supported Arabs and Turkomen who opposed the idea.

Also Tuesday, nearly two dozen police and security officials arrested on suspicion of forging identity cards and badges were released on bail, security officials said.

The men originally were reported to be arrested for conspiring to restore Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party. But the government later denied there was any conspiracy.

The security officials said those arrested were released pending completion of an investigation, without specifying whether they will be charged. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to news media.

Elsewhere in Iraq, four policemen were killed and three others injured in bomb explosion in Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, police said. The bomb was planted outside the main gate of a house belonging to police Lt. Col. Ismaiel al-Fandawi and detonated as he left for work, a police officer said.

Al-Fandawi, police chief in the nearby town of Mishada, was among those killed, the officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.